SAN PABLO -- In the throes of radiation treatment for breast cancer, Geraldine Rubin was ready to give up.
"It was a fight, the hardest thing I've ever been through," Rubin said. "Without the doctors and staff here talking me into continuing, I wouldn't have made it."
Now, the bubbly San Pablo resident is cancer-free and looking forward to her 72nd birthday.
Rubin was among dozens of breast cancer survivors honored Wednesday at Doctors Medical Center San Pablo during the inaugural First Day of Spring Survivorship Celebration. The event at the medical center's J.C. Robinson, M.D. Regional Cancer Center included free beauty makeovers donated by student makeup and hair stylists, as well as free glamour gift bags. The event honored the breast cancer survivors and their support networks.
"What we do best here is teamwork," said Dr. Stuart Gourlay, a surgeon at the center. "We are your team."
Rubin said it was the sense of togetherness and uplifting spirits that helped her get through her darkest hours.
A native of Hawaii and 20-year resident of San Pablo, Rubin was in fine health until she discovered a lump in her breast in 2010.
"It was a nightmare," Rubin said. "The word cancer just horrified me; I cried and cried."
After more than two years and several surgeries to remove part of a breast and 28 lymph nodes, Rubin is cancer-free.
"But I still come back here," Rubin said of the center. "I bake them cakes, and I visit. They saved my life."
Administrators said more than 500 people are diagnosed with cancer at the center and begin treatment each year. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed at the center, followed by colon, prostate, lung and Lymphoma, Gourlay said.
A staff of about 25 runs the facility, and friendships and social networks are given nearly as much attention as more traditional medical treatments.
"Social needs and stress reduction are very important," Gourlay said. "We know that under enormous stress, our immune systems may not respond as well."
Since the early 1990s, better than two out of every three cancer patients survives beyond five years, according to the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Madhu Shetti, medical director for the cancer center's Department of Radiation Oncology, said Wednesday's event was an opportunity for breast cancer survivors to not only rejoice with those who have been through the same thing but to be pampered and look their best.
"Our goal is not just that everyone who comes in here is cured but that they can return to their normal lives," Shetti said.
Rubin said life has never been sweeter.
"I love to crochet, I love to be around people and laugh," she said. "It's wonderful to be a survivor."